Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn., 1788
Native to tropics in Asia and Oceania.
Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn., 1788
Native to tropics in Asia and Oceania.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Habitat & Distribution
Depth range (m): 0 - 0
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Life History and Behavior
Evolution and Systematics
Leaves of the sacred lotus are self-cleaning thanks to nanoscale bumps.
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Barthlott, W.; Neinhuis, C. 1997. Purity of the sacred lotus, or escape from contamination in biological surfaces. Planta. 202(1): 1-8.
Nature's Raincoats. Nottingham Trent University, University of Oxford.
- Neinhuis, C.; Barthlott, W. 1997. Characterization and distribution of water-repellent, self-cleaning plant surfaces. Annals of Botany. 79(6): 667-677.
Seeds of lotus remain viable for thousands of years via hard seed coat and repair enzymes.
"In the West, lotus (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.) is relatively little known. However, for more than 3000 years, lotus plants have been cultivated as a crop in Far-East Asia, where they are used for food, medicine and play a significant role in religious and cultural activities. Holder of the world's record for long-term seed viability (1300 years) is a lotus fruit (China Antique) from Xipaozi, Liaoning Province, China. Five offspring of this variety, from 200-500-year-old fruits (14C dates) collected at Xipaozi, have recently been germinated, and are the first such seedlings to be raised from directly dated fruits. The fruits at Xipaozi, preserved in a dry ancient lakebed, have been exposed to low-dose γ-radiation for hundreds of years (having an accumulated soil irradiation of 0.1-1.0 Gy). Offspring from these old fruits show abnormalities that resemble those in various modern seedlings irradiated at much higher doses. Although these lotus offspring are phenotypically abnormal, the viability of old seeds was evidently not affected by accumulated doses of up to 3 Gy. Growth characteristics of first- and second-year lotus offspring of these fruits, products of the longest-term radiobiological experiment on record, are summarized here (rapid early growth, phenotypic abnormalities, lack of vigour, poor rhizome development and low photosynthetic activity during second-year growth). Aspects of their chromosomal organization, phenotype and physiology (rapid recovery from stress, heat-stable proteins, protein-repair enzyme) are discussed. Important unsolved problems are suggested to elicit interest among members of the seed science community to the study of old fruits recently collected at Xipaozi, with particular emphasis on aspects of ageing and repair." (Shen-Miller 2002:131)
"'The secret of the sacred lotus may be its seed coat,' says Shen-Miller. 'The coat is very hard, built to prevent water and air from entering and degrading the seed.' The sacred lotus is also blessed with a hardy collection of repair enzymes, such as L-isoaspartyl methyltransferase and other proteins that minimize seed damage, resist attacks by fungi, and help the seed survive harsh temperatures. 'The lotus is a scientific treasure,' remarks Shen-Miller, adding that the flower could reveal biochemical traits that boost quality of life by repairing the molecular damage of aging." (Brown 2001:1884-1885)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Brown K. 2001. Patience Yields Secrets of Seed Longevity. Science. 291(5510): 1884-1885.
- Shen-Miller, J. 2007. Sacred lotus, the long-living fruits of China Antique. Seed Science Research. 12(03): 131-143.
The sacred lotus attracts pollinators by producing heat through a nonphosphorylating electron transport pathway that releases energy by electron flow through an alternative respiratory pathway.
The alternative pathway of respiration, catalysed by the Alternative Oxidase (AOX), is responsible for heat production in the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera).
"We report results from in vivo measurements, using oxygen isotope discrimination techniques, of fluxes through the alternative and cytochrome respiratory pathways in thermogenic plant tissue, the floral receptacle of the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera). Fluxes through both pathways were measured in thermoregulating flowers undergoing varying degrees of thermogenesis in response to ambient temperature. Significant increases in alternative pathway flux were found in lotus receptacles with temperatures 16oC to 20oC above ambient, but not in those with lesser amounts of heating. Alternative pathway flux in the hottest receptacles was 75% of the total respiratory flux. In contrast, fluxes through the cytochrome pathway did not change significantly during thermogenesis. These data support the hypothesis that increased flux through the alternative pathway is responsible for heating in the lotus and that it is unlikely that uncoupling proteins, which would have produced increased fluxes through the cytochrome pathway, contribute significantly to heating in this tissue. Comparisons of actual flux, with capacity determined using inhibitors, suggested that the alternative pathway was operating at close to maximum capacity in heating tissues of lotus. However, in nonheating tissues the inhibitor data significantly overestimated the alternative pathway flux. This confirms that isotopic measurements are necessary for accurate determination of fluxes through the two pathways." (Watling et al. 2006:1367)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Watling, J. R.; Robinson, S. A.; Seymour, R. S. 2006. Contribution of the alternative pathway to respiration during thermogenesis in flowers of the sacred lotus. Plant Physiology. 140(4): 1367-1373.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Nelumbo nucifera
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Nelumbo nucifera, also known as Indian lotus, sacred lotus, bean of India, or simply lotus, is one of two species of aquatic plant in the family Nelumbonaceae. The Linnaean binomial Nelumbo nucifera (Gaertn.) is the currently recognized name for this species, which has been classified under the former names, Nelumbium speciosum (Willd.) and Nymphaea nelumbo, among others. (These names are obsolete synonyms and should be avoided in current works.) This plant is an aquatic perennial. Under favorable circumstances its seeds may remain viable for many years, with the oldest recorded lotus germination being from that of seeds 1,300 years old recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China.
While all modern plant taxonomy systems agree that this species belongs in the genus Nelumbo, the systems disagree as to which family Nelumbo should be placed in, or whether the genus should belong in its own unique family and order.
The lotus is often confused with the water lilies (Nymphaea, in particular Nymphaea caerulea, sometimes called the "blue lotus"). In fact, several older systems, such as Bentham and Hooker (which is widely used in the Indian subcontinent) call the lotus Nymphaea nelumbo or Nymphaea stellata. This is, however, evolutionarily incorrect, as the lotus and water-lilies are practically unrelated. Far from being in the same family, Nymphaea and Nelumbo are members of different orders (Nymphaeales and Proteales respectively).
The roots of lotus are planted in the soil of the pond or river bottom, while the leaves float on top of the water surface or are held well above it. The flowers are usually found on thick stems rising several centimeters above the leaves. The plant normally grows up to a height of about 150 cm and a horizontal spread of up to 3 meters, but some unverified reports place the height as high as over 5 meters. The leaves may be as large as 60 cm in diameter, while the showy flowers can be up to 20 cm in diameter.
Researchers report that the lotus has the remarkable ability to regulate the temperature of its flowers to within a narrow range just as humans and other warmblooded animals do. Dr. Roger S. Seymour and Dr. Paul Schultze-Motel, physiologists at the University of Adelaide in Australia, found that lotus flowers blooming in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens maintained a temperature of 30–35 °C (86–95 °F), even when the air temperature dropped to 10 °C (50 °F). They suspect the flowers may be doing this to attract coldblooded insect pollinators. The study, published in the journal Nature, is the latest discovery in the field of thermoregulation, heat-producing, plants. Two other species known to be able to regulate their temperature include Symplocarpus foetidus and Philodendron selloum.
An individual lotus can live for over a thousand years and has the rare ability to revive into activity after stasis. In 1994, a seed from a sacred lotus, dated at roughly 1,300 years old ± 270 years, was successfully germinated.
As mentioned earlier, the traditional Sacred Lotus is only distantly related to Nymphaea caerulea, but possesses similar chemistry. Both Nymphaea caerulea and Nelumbo nucifera contain the alkaloids nuciferine and aporphine.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||278 kJ (66 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||3.1 g|
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.|
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
The flowers, seeds, young leaves, and "roots" (rhizomes) are all edible. In Asia, the petals are sometimes used for garnish, while the large leaves are used as a wrap for food, not frequently eaten (for example, as a wrapper for zongzi). In Korea, the leaves and petals are used as a tisane. Yeonkkotcha (연꽃차) is made with dried petals of white lotus and yeonipcha (연잎차) is made with the leaves. Young lotus stems are used as a salad ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. The rhizome (called ǒu (藕) in pinyin Chinese, ngau in Cantonese, thambou in Manipuri, kamal kakri in Hindi, renkon (レンコン, 蓮根 in Japanese), yeongeun (연근 in Korean) is used as a vegetable in soups, deep-fried, stir-fried, and braised dishes and the roots are also used in traditional Asian herbal medicine. Petals, leaves, and rhizome can also all be eaten raw, but there is a risk of parasite transmission (e.g., Fasciolopsis buski): it is therefore recommended that they be cooked before eating.
Lotus rootlets are often pickled with rice vinegar, sugar, chili and/or garlic. It has a crunchy texture with sweet-tangy flavours. In Asian cuisine, it is popular with salad, prawns, sesame oil and/or coriander leaves. Lotus roots have been found to be rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, copper, and manganese, while very low in saturated fat.
The stamens can be dried and made into a fragrant herbal tea called liánhuā cha (蓮花茶) in Chinese, or (particularly in Vietnam) used to impart a scent to tea leaves. This Vietnamese lotus tea is called trà sen, chè sen, or chè ướp sen. The lotus seeds or nuts (called liánzĭ, 蓮子; or xiān liánzĭ, 鲜莲子, in Chinese) are quite versatile, and can be eaten raw or dried and popped like popcorn, phool makhana. They can also be boiled until soft and made into a paste, or boiled with dried longans and rock sugar to make a tong sui (sweet soup). Combined with sugar, lotus seed paste becomes one of the most common ingredients used in pastries such as mooncakes, daifuku, and rice flour pudding.
In South Indian states, the Lotus Stem is sliced, marinated with salt to dry, and the dried slices are fried and used as a side dish. In Kerala and Tamil Nadu, this end product is called " Thamara Vathal". In Sri Lanka, the sliced Lotus Stem curry is a popular dish called "Nelum Ala". In Vietnam, the bitter tasting germs of the lotus seeds are also made into a tisane (trà tim sen).
Hindus revere it with the divinities Vishnu and Lakshmi often portrayed on a pink lotus in iconography. In the representation of Vishnu as Padmanabha (Lotus navel), a lotus issues from his navel with Brahma on it. Goddess Sarasvati is portrayed on a white-colored lotus.
Often used as an example of divine beauty, Vishnu is often described as the 'Lotus-Eyed One'. Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. In Hindu iconography, other deities, like Ganga and Ganesha are often depicted with lotus flowers as their seats.
One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water.—Bhagavad Gita 5.10:
I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.
Most deities of Asian religions are depicted as seated on a lotus flower. In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of the body, speech, and mind as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. According to legend, Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to walk, and lotus flowers bloomed everywhere he stepped.
In the classical written and oral literature of many Asian cultures the lotus is present in figurative form, representing elegance, beauty, perfection, purity and grace, being often used in poems and songs as an allegory for ideal feminine attributes. In Sanskrit the word lotus (padma पद्म) has many synonyms. Since the lotus thrives in water, ja (denoting birth) is added to synonyms of water to derive some synonyms for the lotus, like ambuja (ambu= water + ja=born of), neeraj (neera=water + ja= born of), pankaj, pankaja, kamal, kamala, kunala, aravind, arvind, nalin,nalini and saroja and names derived from the lotus, like padmavati (possessing lotuses) or padmini (full of lotuses). These names and derived versions are often used to name girls, and to a lesser extent boys, in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as in many other countries influenced by Indic culture, like Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos.
- The Padma Shri, a civilian award given by the Government of India, has the words Padma ("lotus") and Sri in Devanagari script appear above and below a lotus flower on its obverse.
- The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a nationalist political party of India which claims to be at the forefront of India's cultural nationalism, uses the lotus as its election symbol.
- Lotus Flower, a song by Radiohead on their 2011 album, The King of Limbs.
- Japanese rock musician Miyavi uses the lotus and a crescent moon with the kanji of his name (meaning 'elegance') above, as his insignia.
- Moriyama City's prefectural flower is the lotus.
- Vietnam Airlines's logo comprises a golden lotus and is also mentioned in their frequent flyer program, the Golden Lotus Plus.
- Lotus is burned in a powdered form as ceremonial incense, primarily in Buddhist temples.
- Lotus is an Ayyavazhi symbol in south Tamil Nadu.
- Dark Lotus the name of Psychopathic Records super group consisting of Insane Clown Posse, Twiztid and Blaze Ya Dead Homie. References in their music along from horrorcore themes, describe them similarly how the lotus flower grows in grim conditions.
- Lotus Flower Bomb, a song by Wale on his 2011 album, Ambition.
- Flying Lotus, an experimental music producer, musician, and rapper.
- Lotus Cars, a British manufacturer of sports and racing cars.
- Black Lotus, considered the most valuable non-promotional card ever printed for Magic: The Gathering.
The flavonol miquelianin (Quercetin 3-O-glucuronide), as well as the alkaloids (+)-1(R)-coclaurine and (−)-1(S)-norcoclaurine, can be found in the leaves of N. nucifera. The plant also contains nuciferine and aporphine.
- Shen-Miller, J.; Schopf, J. W.; Harbottle, G.; Cao, R.-j.; Ouyang, S.; Zhou, K.-s.; Southon, J. R.; Liu, G.-h. (2002). "Long-living lotus: Germination and soil -irradiation of centuries-old fruits, and cultivation, growth, and phenotypic abnormalities of offspring". American Journal of Botany 89 (2): 236–47. doi:10.3732/ajb.89.2.236. PMID 21669732.
- Perry, F. Flowers of the World Bonanza Books, 1972. p. 192-193
- Serventy, V; Raymond, R. Lakes & Rivers of Australia Summit Books, 1980. p. 102-103
- CAROL KAESUK YOONPublished: October 01, 1996 (1996-10-01). "Heat of Lotus Attracts Insects And Scientists". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
- Shen-Miller; Mudgett, M. B.; William Schopf, J.; Clarke, S.; Berger, R. et al. (1995). "Exceptional seed longevity and robust growth: Ancient sacred lotus from China". American Journal of Botany 82 (11): 1367–1380. doi:10.2307/2445863. JSTOR 2445863.
- Shen-Miller et al. (2002). "Long-living lotus: germination and soil gamma-irradiation of centuries-old fruits, and cultivation, growth, and phenotypic abnormalities of offspring". American Journal of Botany. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
Sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) has been cultivated as a crop in Asia for thousands of years. An ~1300-yr-old lotus fruit, recovered from an originally cultivated but now dry lakebed in northeastern China, is the oldest germinated and directly 14C-dated fruit known. In 1996, we traveled to the dry lake at Xipaozi Village, China, the source of the old viable fruits.
- Ray Ming, Robert VanBuren, Yanling Liu, Mei Yang, Yuepeng Han, et al. Genome of the long-living sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.). Genome Biology, 2013; 14 (5): R41 DOI: 10.1186/gb-2013-14-5-r41
- "Sacred Lotus Genome Sequence Enlightens Scientists". Science Daily. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- Stuart Wolpert (10 May 2013). "Scientists sequence genome of 'sacred lotus,' which likely holds anti-aging secrets". UCLA Newsroom. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- Dharmananda, Subhuti. "itmonline". itmonline. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
- "周敦颐：《爱莲说》". Book.qq.com. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
- Indian baby names (English)
- Sanskrit-based names (English)
- Kashiwada, Y.; Aoshima, A.; Ikeshiro, Y.; Chen, Y. P.; Furukawa, H.; Itoigawa, M.; Fujioka, T.; Mihashi, K.; Cosentino, L. M.; Morris-Natschke, S. L.; Lee, K. H. (2005). "Anti-HIV benzylisoquinoline alkaloids and flavonoids from the leaves of Nelumbo nucifera, and structure–activity correlations with related alkaloids". Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry 13 (2): 443–448. doi:10.1016/j.bmc.2004.10.020. PMID 15598565.
The seeds of Nelumbo nucifera have been shown to remain viable for several hundred years under certain conditions (D. A. Priestley and M. A. Posthumus 1982).
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